- Notes on Kenneth Goldsmith at the Poetry International Festival
00:00-06:53 The camera shows the audience returning to their seats in an atmosphere where the chattering and the lightning makes us feel something interesting happens when elite bodies meet to enjoy Art and Language once again.
07:06-07:24 “Poetry International Festival Rotterdam. Kenneth Goldsmith Pierre Alferi” (2015). For almost twenty seconds we see the image of two persons together (arms crossed, holding each other, embracing) and a chain. It is both a chain and a beautiful thing. It is a very good visual definition of Art today.
07:25-12:33 A white moderator appears wearing a beautiful suit. His body language (facial expressions, tone of voice and movement of hands) reiterates the audience this is an educated and reasonable man. “Important subjects… we can talk as man to man, woman to woman, human to human, which is, which means we share a room together, this evening, in a conversation that I hope everyone will enjoy, and feel to be part of the conversation as well”. One of the best verbal definitions on how the elitist cultural illusion works.
12:32-12:47 The artist-poet Kenneth Goldsmith enters the stage of the Poetry International Festival. He is wearing a white suit. The introduction made no mention, of course, of his recent racist performance. He looks charming and bright up there. Once he starts doing the talking, Goldsmith uses his voice (as ever) to construct himself as a Poet. He uses the tone of his voice to inform others he is the embodiment of High Culture. And to inform others that if you are listening and are part of this language game you should feel privileged too. Notice how he says words like “beautiful” (12:38), “taste” (13:00) or “death” (22:43). He reads for the next minutes brief excerpts from different pieces. The texts are standard. It is not there where his art resides. Kenneth Goldsmith’s art is very traditional and reactionary: the center of his aesthetic form is his voice. But nor him or his critics can say this, because the whole language game would start to collapse. And this language game has as one of its most important rules not to mention anything about the use of clothes, photography, whiteness, body language and tone of voice as the central features of North-American conceptualism. This language game consists in pretending the techniques and the concepts are at the center, and not the embellishing of white supremacist control of bodies. This voice is sophisticated. This voice is elegant. This voice is cool. This voice is soft. This voice is nice. This voice is American. This voice is privileged. This voice is well-mannered. This voice is aristocratic. This voice is democratic. This voice can contain other voices without losing its own fine personality. This voice, you need to listen to. This voice, you need to understand. You need to desire this voice. This voice hides the civilizational crime. Humans should worship a voice like this one. This voice’s performance and explanation you need to buy. This voice informs its own body and other’s that this voice loves the systems of co-control it lives in. This Voice is Often Permitted to Return to a Meadow.
23:00-26:25 The moderator returns and introduces Pierre Alferi. He lies about the importance of the artist coming next, as all introducers do.
26:26-42:03 The French aesthete Pierre Alferi talks/reads statements that have been said thousands of times and are supposed to make listeners feel they are new, smart, nuanced, provocative or possibly subversive. He says nothing about Goldsmith’s open complicity with North-American imperialism and white supremacy. Alferi is so out of touch that he says that he feels “a little like an Indian in the prairie of language… but however, if I am not mistaken, we don’t need this time to kill each other” (41:49-42:01). The audience applauds and some giggle.
42:19-[The End] Kenneth Goldsmith, Pierre Alferi, the moderator and Mia You get together for the final round of conversation. For the remainder half and hour they will talk, especially Goldsmith, saying obvious things in order to avoid the obvious: Kenneth Goldsmith needs to be radically questioned. And nobody does it. And this is what the art context functioning in that space-time is all about, protecting art’s complicity with capitalism and making us applaud and feel the elite is really smart and interesting.
1:08:28-1:12:54 Mia You starts to take the role of the critic finally showing up and will try to question Goldsmith. And the moderator immediately pressures this last-minute-critic saying the traditional “We are running out of time” (to try to undermine the last-minute-critic’s capacity to question the authority of the white artist-writer). As she is starting to try to bring the uncomfortable issue on the table, the last-minute-critic puts her hand in her throat as if she wants to choak herself, hide she is nervous or maybe try to control her voice, and in any case, to try to keep a reasonable, not angry, not aggressive voice, because she is struggling with all those Western dominant values and, in general, obeying the way intellectuals are supposed to express themselves. The critic then builds her momentum and stops controlling her throat and questions Goldsmith rather softly on his recent performance using the report of a black man executed by the police to help neutralize this violent racist event through the umbrella of art. When Goldsmith finally starts to respond, the camera doesn’t move and keeps looking at Mia You, the last-minute-critic, to try to protect Kenneth Goldsmith until the last seconds, as if the burden caused by the response should fall on the critic and get Goldsmith off the hook as long as possible. Once his answer begins to become intellectually credible (gathering notions, terminology, arguments to launch a smoke screen), the screen finally shows Goldsmith continuing his explanation, and says “it was the apparatus” (1:10:18) and “apparatus” he says with that particular tone of voice he uses strategically to create an audio-aura. His explanation works for the intellectual classes because it reduces the discussion to the aesthetic realm. “You know… I am a poet, I make failed works… Many of my works don’t come off. Many of our works don’t come off… Experiments don’t always work”. Goldsmith standard explanation creates consensus and acceptance in the four intellectuals (as their body language clearly shows). And once Goldsmith explanation is coming to an end, the camera again returns to the critic and her agreement (in the moderators words) that “we are running out of time… we have a lot of stuff to talk about for hours, if we could have the time, but I am afraid there’s another program approaching”. As if they weren’t responsible for deciding to not talk about this for the last one hour and twelve minutes. The art show ends. And we are suppose to identify with this crap.
- Notes on art’s crap
- Once art is invoked, every one around it becomes impelled to maintain civility. Behave. Obey. Take Your Place. Behave.
- Whether a material artifact, a verbal entity or a concept, we have arrived to an age where art serves a police function. Art is a context in which the concept of police circulates among its participants. Every element of art polices the others. Whether in front of a microphone, a painting, a book, an author, an audience, a camera, art sole communication is “Police Yourself”. And you are supposed to be the detective who finds other meanings in art and never find the police and the crime. You will police yourself to not ever find the police and the crime.
- Whenever, wherever, art exists, the body must behave well. This is what art contexts train human bodies to do. Art is an education to self-control yourself in order to enter art’s realm. In art’s realm pleasant feelings are provided for you to experience police as the most beautiful experience.
- The function of the Aesthetic is to sabotage individual discontent and prevent violent collective explosions.
- Art softens the senses. Art prepares persons to accept all sort of lies. Aesthetic contemplation is counter-insurgency in the form of delight.
- Police is the ruling concept of art.
- Works of art are part of the pacification apparatus.
- Works of art are part of the apparatus to pacify populations through the fantasy of a civilizational mediation happening through the educated classes. They consider this a utopia. Works of art are part of the apparatus to pacify the educated classes until they are reduced into agreeing among themselves. They consider this a triumph. And the artist and the critic make believe themselves they are questioning something.
- Works of art are civilizational devices designed to undermine bodily revolutionary forces.
- Works of art are surrounded by liberal and neoliberal agents in conversation, who whether aware of this or not, agree that talking-about is a good or great thing. They call it “dialogue”, and they think very highly of it, they regard it as one of their most cherished values, when, in fact, talking hours and hours about this or that only serves their own interests, it grants them high-culture status and functions, respectability, resources and jobs. “Dialogue” gives time for the killing machinery to continue. Art and Dialogue delay the decision to accept the overthrowing of civilization by ourselves or others. Art and Dialogue are counter-revolutionary.
- Art will not change. Art will not change art. Art will not change the world. The world needs to destroy art. The transformation of the world will involve the destruction of every form of art. Art’s self-destruction is not enough.
Originally published June 23, 2015